Dear Parishioners and friends,
Our church buildings will remain closed until further notice. As this is the case, I offer you a recorded and written reflection here which outlines some of my thinking over these last three months.
For the audio version of these reflections please click here
Dear Parishioners and friends,
This Sunday marks the first week of Advent around the world. Churches within the universal Body of Christ who possess a catholic identity begin Year B in the triennial cycle of readings from the Bible. The name Advent means “the coming.” What is the point of celebrating a church-season of coming? The coming we celebrate is the coming of Jesus, who is the answer to all the longings that reside inside of you.
Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Corinth, a city in Greece, about 25-30 years after Jesus was killed on the cross and rose from the dead. As he opens the letter he greets the Corinthian Church with the following words:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind — just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:3-7).
Paul reminds the Corinthians that the gift of God’s grace they have been given in the coming of Jesus is still with them as Paul writes his letter. The prophets, including Moses, Isaiah, and John the Baptist tell of God coming to dwell with us. Jesus is Immanuel, or God with us. Paul is reminding the Corinthians that Jesus, who walked the earth in the past, still remains alive and strong residing inside each believer who stands in faith and welcomes Jesus’ coming.
In the Gospel of Saint John we read Jesus’ own words, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Earlier in the 5th chapter of the gospel, John relays other words of Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). The Life God offers to all who desire eternal life with Him comes to every believer the moment that they confess their belief in Jesus.
People often get confused believing that they will dwell with God sometime in the future after they leave the “hell” of this world. That is wrong. While this world does reveal that Satan is at work to do evil, God is alive and present now, and we are invited to be His new creatures in this world that is passing away, and we, as new creations begin our eternal lives right now. We, by believing and confessing our belief in Jesus receive our eternal citizenship in heaven right now and for eternity. Paul explains to his readers how believers living in this world are, all the while, also hoping on God’s promise of Life eternal. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). When Paul writes, eternal in the heavens, he means that such a dwelling can never be destroyed. The words of Paul, ancient as they are, still remain alive, valuable and true for us, because the truth of God is an everlasting truth. Paul reveals to us that entering your eternal citizenship is the point when you accept the truth that God desires to be reconciled with you and it is the point where you are assured that life has no ending. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Some of you may be asking, how is it that you can welcome Jesus into your heart and inside of your thoughts and inside of your emotions? First, remember that the Christian faith is not a self-help program designed for you so you can improve your fleshly life here in this earthly life. Confessing Jesus Christ is Lord and believing the truth of Jesus, that He died and rose for you, is the point where God is welcomed to dwell inside of you according to His desire to bring you to the fullness of life. Affirming this faith, Paul wrote to the Roman church, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Some forget or have never understood that God desires to dwell inside each person’s thoughts, emotions and to dwell in their hearts. Pause and reflect to yourself that God is the sole source and provider for all of Life. God’s desire for your eternal life, which includes your heart, your thoughts and your feelings is sealed in His promise to be with us forever. Turning again to the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus tells us, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Yet God’s intentions to dwell with us and among us did not start with Jesus. This has been God’s plan since the beginning. We read Moses’ testimony of God’s own words in the book of Leviticus. “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:11-12). We can read the words of God spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “for I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
As you celebrate Advent, the coming of Jesus, and you open your Heart to God, let us recall that it is the heart that has the physical function of pumping blood through your veins. Your heart is also the place where you can store emotions, and where the passions for life are awakened. Asking Jesus to dwell inside of you safeguards your heart. Keeping your heart opened to the work of God in you is a life changing decision and a daily discipline.
While our hearts hold on to and regulate this earthly life, personal thoughts and feelings can have a significant influence on us. Thoughts and feelings can be driven by so many varied sources, like the latest news report, words of a recent conversation. Uncensored, thoughts and feelings from one event tend to impact all your other experiences, and your life’s direction. These words and ideas can impact, even tarnish, your personal emotions and thoughts. Negative thoughts and emotions that go unchecked will cause you to be driven by what happened to you in the past, be it five minutes ago or years earlier. Toxic thoughts and emotions can make a home in you, thus directing your life to go off-track. If you live solely from one earthly experience to the next, you are walking straight into your own death.
Jesus, the Salvation of God for all who believe, comes that you might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). As Paul wrote, “the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind” (1 Corinthians 1:5). Knowledge of Jesus brings a grace, a grace that will guide your thinking, your speaking and your desires. The gift of Christ is not just a memory from the past, or an emotional high, but a spiritual truth that is eternal. Confessing Him as Lord, and asking that His thoughts becomes your thoughts, and that His feelings become your feelings, melds your spirit with His Holy Spirit. He comes to you that His Spirit might dwell in you richly. Your personality welcomes His personality to come and dwell in your heart, your thoughts, and your emotions.
It is for this reason that we celebrate the coming of Jesus in Advent.
It is for this reason we confess Jesus as Lord and King of our lives.
We absolutely need to take this time and turn our thoughts and focus to Jesus who is the source of our creation and recreation. So, prepare your mind to be transformed by Him, prepare your emotions to be rooted in Him, prepare your heart to receive Him.
As you prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas and as Advent begins, let us make room for Him, Jesus, Immanuel, “God – with – us.” Amen.
God Bless you,
Tel. (028) 37117
If you would like to see other reflections written by the Rector you may find them here: http://tommystuppence.blogspot.com
If you would like to hear some of Steve's sermons online then please click here
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